Those of you who have been following me for a while will know quite a lot about me by now.
I love cats. I love travel. I love tattoos. I have pink hair. I have pets. I have wonderful friends. I am a nurse. I am a campaigner. I am an extrovert.
I have bipolar disorder. I am in recovery from an eating disorder.
I pride myself on being open and honest on this blog and on twitter, and it’s important to me to talk about not just the positives in life and the benefits of recovery, but also the tough times that those of us with mental health problems inevitably experience. I don’t ever want to sugar coat anything.
However, there are parts of myself that I choose to keep private, partially because there are things I’m not ready to share and partially because I don’t want to. And actually, I think that’s okay. I love being able to share my experiences to help others, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to keep a part of you just for you. All of us naturally have parts of ourselves that we don’t share even with those closest to us and that’s okay.
I’m very good at talking honestly about how things have been for me in the past. I’m not so good at talking about when things are difficult at the time – actually I’m pretty bad at it and I always have been. Although the mental health community online is incredibly supportive; it is natural for people to compare themselves to others. Who was the illest? Who was the thinnest? Who had the most admissions? Who has the most followers? Who shares the most? Why are they doing better than me? What am I doing wrong? Who publishes the most posts? Why do they get more likes than me? It’s inevitable that these comparisons can lead to people feeling inadequate. Like it or not, we are in a generation of sharing, and that comes with its ups and downs.
Those of us who do share a lot about our mental health are often touted as being brave. I agree that anybody who talks about their mental health openly is brave, but that doesn’t mean those that don’t talk about it aren’t. Living with mental illness in itself is incredibly brave. Knowing your limits is brave.
So no, I don’t share every part of myself online, and no I’m not always honest about the difficult times when I’m going through them. I have so much respect and admiration for people who are able to do this, but I know that when I am feeling unwell and vulnerable, that it’s not the right thing for me to do.
Mental illness is incredibly hard to live with, and it’s so, so important for us to take care of ourselves and know our limits. If, like me, that means you need to shield parts of yourself from the outside world, you should never feel bad, or ashamed, or as though you aren’t brave.
The most important thing isn’t being honest with the world; it’s being honest with yourself that truly matters.